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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

From Dunedin to Lake Waratipu and Invercargill

page 246

From Dunedin to Lake Waratipu and Invercargill.

On March 26th I started in Hoyt's coach at 6.30 A.M. The road passed over hills until it reached the Taieri plain; the rocks schists with some tertiary patches, brown coal, &c. The Taieri is a flat plain of alluvium and gravel lying between schist ranges on each side, with the river Taieri running through it, and not unfrequently flooding its lower part. We were travelling by the shortest and at the same time the highest route to the interior, and therefore instead of descending the valley we crossed it to West Taieri, and then ascended on the flanks of the Maungatua range. We gradually rose to a height of about 3000 feet, the country somewhat resembling the Scotch Highlands, except that there was no heather; and we reached M'Donald's inn at Old Man's Creek at 6 P.M. Here I had the pleasure for the first time of meeting Dr. Hector, who was on his way to Dunedin. In consequence of the elevation the night was very cold.

We started at 6 A.M. on March 31st, and passed over a schist range, obtaining fine views of the page 247Old Man's range and Mounts Remarkable and Aspiring. During the day we travelled up and down over a mountain road, large schistose rocks standing out in all directions, the upper Taieri plain sometimes in view on our right, the country grassy and entirely devoid of trees, and I may say, giving a clear idea of the climate of the interior of Otago— dry, with warm bright days and cold nights, forming a strong contrast to the moister climate of the coast. In the afternoon we crossed Raggetty range, and then ran down hill for about seven miles to the gold-field township of Dunstan, now Clyde, on the banks of the Molyneux.

Our driver put on a spurt, and we drove stylishly up the main and only street of the township. It presented a most striking appearance. At the door of nearly every other wooden or corrugated iron box, or canvas shelter, of which the architecture of the town consisted, an elaborately got-up barmaid presented herself to see the arrival of the coach. The get-up of the hair was something wonderful, and not to be exceeded in London or Paris. The sight was curious, and I don't think altogether pleasing. I should have preferred more simplicity, such as the snood and striped petticoat of the Scotch lassie, but there is no accounting for taste. We pulled up at the door of a hotel, where, perhaps, the most magnificent of the barmaids had presented herself.

We were now in the region of high prices, and I had to pay £4 for a horse to take me to Queens-page 248town on Lake Wakatipu, one day's journey. On April 1st I left Dunstan on the said expensive animal. Our route led up the valley of the Moly-neux, which ran in a deep cleft on our left, with vertical cliffs about 100 feet high. We soon left the Dunstan flat, and entered the gorge. The Kauwara junction is a fine sight. Here the Moly-neux, coming from Lake Wanaka, is crossed by a bridge over the foaming torrent, and is joined below by the Kauwara from Lake Wakatipu. Our road now led up the valley of the latter stream.

After passing "Roaring Meg," a picturesque and foaming torrent, the gorge becomes much narrower. Here we met large parties of men engaged in making the road. We left the Kauwara valley on our left, and dropped down upon the "Arrow" at 6 P.M. Here there is a large auriferous flat. I was introduced to Warden Aylmer, and then rode in the dark across the plain and the Shotover river, past Frankton on Lake Wakatipu, and reached Queens-town at 8.30 P.M.

On turning out on the morning of April 2nd, I was struck with the magnificent character of the scenery. Without attempting a minute description I may, as matter of comparison, state that Lake Wakatipu is equal in beauty to the finest Scottish lakes, but with vastly greater proportions. The Scottish mountains do not attain an altitude of more than 3000 to 5000 feet, and seldom reach that height, while Lake Wakatipu is bounded by mountains from 6000 to 7000 feet high. Were the gold-diggers displaced page 249by a few Scotch gillies and shepherds, with their dogs and guns, one might imagine one's self in the Highlands. Possibly comparison with some of the Swiss lakes might be more appropriate, although I cannot recall one that would suit. The rich cultivation which is common on the shores of the Swiss lakes is wanting, but may in favoured spots be eventually supplied. The climate is too cold, at least at night, to allow comparison with the Italian lakes, nor is there the same variety of outline that is possessed by Lago Maggiore. Lake Como would do better, but where are the terraced vineyards, the monasteries, the castles, and the villas. Lake Wakatipu is 60 miles long; its surface is 1000 feet above the sea, and its depth 1300 feet, or 300 feet below sea-level. It is only one of a series of splendid lakes, including Wanaka, Te Anau, &c.

After breakfast I walked to the Arthur's Point diggings on the Shotover. It was an interesting sight; the river was embanked for a considerable distance, and the miners were hard at work with Californian pumps, keeping down the water and getting out wash-dirt. If rain comes on, their work is in danger. The Shotover has yielded much gold, and many miners believe there is an enormous wealth in its bed; consequently many plans have been formed to turn the stream. Whether any of these have been carried out or not, I cannot say.

Near Queenstown I observed that one of the numerous water-races (which are so striking a page 250feature in Otago) had been turned on to irrigate a garden, and the result was the production of vegetables of an enormous size. With its immense supply of water, New Zealand will in time make use of irrigation to a great extent. At Queenstown and the other mining towns the newsvendors were crying their "highly important news." At 4 P.M. I embarked in the "Expert" steamer for Kingstown at the south end of the lake, and enjoyed the splendid scenery, until rain and darkness sent me below for shelter.

I saw little of Kingstown. It was dark when I arrived, and it was still dark when I left at 3.45 A.M., April 3rd. When daylight broke I found we were on the descent from the mountain country to the plains. We were passing through a fine pastoral country with grassy valleys and hills decreasing in height. We passed Athol, and breakfasted at Dome Pass. Crossed the Oreta, and dined at Limestone hill. Here I found good specimens of calcspar and fossils of pecten, &c. We passed Wallace-town, and drove through a bad road cut through the bush to Invercargill. Part of this road was "corduroy." We picked up a young woman at Wallacetown with a very strong Glasgow accent. She was much alarmed at the prospect of being seen driving into Invercargill on the "Sabbath." However, she took the risk. We found a very good hotel, the "Southland Club," about the best I had met with in the colony.